Stories

The Moon Keeper

19 December 2016

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Ten. Another dream. This time you and your father are both alive. I hold off the alarm to stay a moment longer, but it wins. It always wins.

Nine. Up and awake. Ice-tripping through the moon keeper’s cabin, a creaky jumble of beams and stairs. Boots on. Helmet on. Out and away.

Eight. The sheep are glaring. I don’t remember which morning they arrived. I don’t really mind them, because they soften the moonscape and I like to make voices for them, but it would be nice to know who put them there and if they’re for eating or for clothing. I haven’t had meat since ’69 because I just see your body with that cut like a zipper all the way to your chin.

Seven. I take the usual path along the ridge and do the usual musing over gravity and whether I should let it have me.

Six. At viewpoint one, I scan the sweep through your father’s binoculars. Except for the sheep, all is in order.

Five. When I reach the summit, a boy is on my stone. Around ten, I’d guess, in wellingtons and soft pyjamas and a tremble so wild I want to scoop him up and hug him warm. He turns at my shuffling and stiffens like a deer. I don’t think he can see my mouth behind the face shield, but I smile just in case and stop at a safe distance.

‘What on earth are you doing out here all alone?’

He makes a gesture towards the rooftops of Eir’s old farm peering at us from behind the hill, all haloed by cloudlight.

‘Right. New neighbours. Explains the sheep.’

I wiggle my helmet off and scratch the creases out of my scalp. He rises to his feat, staring from my face to my bulky overall, sewn from your father’s old raincoat decades ago, cracked and patched and soiled, but whole enough to keep the wind out.

‘Do you like my space suit?’

He shrugs.

‘Not a talker, are you?’

Another shrug and a half-step backwards. A stab for every time I’ve scared someone away. He looks like you, too. Just a little cleaner and a little older than you ever were.

Four. He scurries down the path towards the farm and then it’s just me and the wind again.

Three. The screen flickers to life in my head. It always does, sooner or later. Your father and I glued to it and the phone ringing itself hoarse in the hallway, out of pace with the countdown, bracing itself for tearing our world apart.

Two. I sit on my stone, pressing my fists to my chest to stop it from aching. The boy grows smaller and smaller and I whisper I’m sorry, but of course he doesn’t hear.

One. In my head, I never pick up the phone. I just let it ring and ring while the shuttle bursts into the sky on the screen as if somehow that would keep reality from ever reaching us.

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